Do Facebook Ads Work For Small Businesses?

When it comes to online marketing, nothing beats SEO for getting hot targeted leads because the people searching on Google are in a buying mood. Google adwords pay per click also works very well for the same reasons, but the ads can get pretty expensive with a click to your website costing at least $1 and sometimes up to $5. However, there is another type of pay per click advertising on Facebook that is much more affordable.Facebook ads

Facebook ads can be as cheap as 20 cents per click but they are not as effective as ads from Google or Bing. This is because people do not go to Facebook to look for products or services – they go there to interact with friends and family. So, when they see an ad in their newsfeed it will be viewed in much the same way as a TV or radio commercial. You are interrupting their newsfeed, so your ad has to speak directly to them and be compelling enough for them to click on the ad and be taken to your website or Facebook business page.

However, Facebook ads do have an advantage over Google ads – you can do some very impressive targeting that you can’t do on any other platform. Facebook does a great job of gathering information about their users, and they let you use that information to get your ad in front of people that are most likely to buy your product or service. For example, you can choose to only show your ad to women between the ages of 35 and 50 that have a university degree and have shown an interest in singing. Or you could even drill down further and only target those women that went to a particular university and have a certain income level. Facebook gets all this information when their users sign up for Facebook and through the content they post and share. They also get consumer information from third party websites that they share data with.

Facebook ads can be beneficial if you use them to build a relationship with your target audience before bombarding them with a pitch for your services. When you start, try to create ads that send your audience to articles you wrote about your business and give them useful information that they might need if they are ever in need of your services. This helps to build your brand in their eyes, and they might begin to trust your company enough to actually hire you when they need your services. You can use retargeting to show a more aggressive ad to only the people that clicked on your previous ads since they have already shown interest in your product or service. Retargeting is when you place a little piece of website code on your website to track all the people that have visited a particular page. Then you can use that information to send ads only to that list of people.

The bottom line is that Facebook ads can work but you need to do a lot of testing with your ads and your website landing page. The learning curve can be a bit steep mostly because they keep changing things.

Here is a great and comprehensive guide for creating a Facebook advertising campaign from Maggie Aland. http://fitsmallbusiness.com/facebook-advertising/

 

 

7 Questions to Ask An SEO Company in Canada

Have you finally decided to make your small business website work for you, and get more leads, customers, patients, or contracts? If the answer is yes, good for you. You are going to need to use online marketing also known as SEO, to get your website found on Google and Bing.questions for an seo company in canada

SEO is not something you can learn to do yourself on a weekend by watching a few Youtube videos. There are a million videos and articles explaining how to do it, but most of those people don’t know what they are talking about, or the information is old and outdated. Learning to do SEO the right way takes at least a few months and requires a lot of technical knowledge. So, unless you have a lot of free time on your hands and are interested in websites, servers, and writing content, you should maybe hire a company that works in your city.

But how do you decide which company to use? First off limit your search to Canadian companies that know the Canadian market and what works here. Here are some questions you should ask an SEO company before you hire them:

      • Can you show me proof that you are getting results for at least one small business in my city? They should be able to go to Google and type in an important keyword for their client and demonstrate that they are on page 1. What is an important keyword? For almost all small businesses your best keywords will be in the form of “city niche”. For example, if their client is a plumber in Calgary, they should rank on the first page of Google for “Calgary Plumber” or if they are a dentist in Winnipeg, they should rank on the first page for “Dentist Winnipeg”

 

      • Can you provide references from at least one client that you are working with? This could mean that they give you the phone number of an existing client that you can call and see how their online marketing is going for them.

 

      • Do you have clients that have been with you for over a year? This is important because it will show that they do SEO for the long term, and they are probably doing things right.

 

      • Do you follow all of Google’s guidelines? This is known as whitehat SEO and simply means that you do not break any of Google’s rules. The term Blackhat SEO refers to people that use spammy and deceptive techniques to get you on the first page of Google, but usually only for a short time until Google discovers what they have done and applies a penalty to your website. Once you have a penalty, it can be very difficult to have it removed.

 

      • What is your cancellation policy? Do I have to sign a contract for a minimum amount of time? Keep in mind that SEO does not happen overnight and your SEO company will need at least 3 months to show you some results, and in some cases 6 months depending on how tough the competition is. If you are a realtor and want to be on the first page of Google for “Calgary real estate” remember that you will be competing with the other 5000 or so realtors that also want to be there.

 

      • How much does it cost? Again as in the point above, it all depends on the competition. Most companies will charge a monthly fee from $200 to more than $1000

 

    • Do you need access to my website? Your SEO company will need to make some changes to your website, so you will need to either provide them with your login and password, or put them in touch with the person that looks after your website so they can request the changes through them. Most of the time the changes will be subtle, unless your website is a complete mess. If they say that they don’t need to make changes at all, that may be a red flag.

 

Of course we would love to answer all those questions and more. Give us a call and we can explain everything we will do for you and how we will do it.

Call us at 403-922-1451

 

How To Get Reviews For Your Small Business

good reviewBack in the early nineties before the internet existed, there was really no reliable way to check up on a business to see if they were reputable, honest, and delivered what they promised. Sure people could call their local Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau, but that just wasn’t all that convenient so not many people did that.

Then around 1995, the internet sprang to life and started to open up the whole world to people that had a personal computer and a dial up connection with a modem. It took a while to gain traction, but by 1999 the internet craze was full blown and any company that had anything to do with the internet or technology in general, exploded in value, or at least their shares did on the stock market. This was called the technology boom which was a bubble and was followed closely by the Tech wreck in 2001 when everyone started realizing that most of these overinflated companies didn’t actually make any money and their stock prices were based only on the hope that they would make a profit in the future. Many companies saw most of their value on the stock market wiped out practically overnight – remember Nortel?

Anyway, despite all that, the internet continued to gain traction and more people were using it every year. More importantly, more companies were starting websites and showcasing their products and services. By 2005, almost all large companies had websites that they continuously improved and eventually we got to the point where you could order practically anything online from sites like Amazon, Ebay, Walmart, Best buy, and even Costco. Now when you go to one of these sites you can read reviews of the product you are about to buy from people that have already bought it, and you get to decide if you want to continue with your purchase based on that review. Isn’t that a great thing?

If you have a local business that serves customers out of a brick and mortar location like a Chiropractor, or at the customer’s location like a Construction contractor, you need to get reviews. If you think about it, and put yourself in your customer’s shoes, if they need a chiropractor, they will go to Google and search for a Chiropractor. Assuming that you are on the first page of Google, and they decide to give your business a try, they will want to read some reviews from your previous patients. If you don’t have any reviews, they may still give you a chance, but they will most likely choose a clinic that does have some good reviews.  If you have 5 positive reviews and 1 bad one, most people realize that there are some people out there that are never happy so they will ignore that bad review. The worst case scenario is if you do have reviews but they are all bad.

So how do you get reviews? First of all, in Canada you should focus most if not all of your efforts on getting Google reviews. I know that Yelp reviews do show up on the first page of Google quite often, but to leave a review, a customer has to already have a Yelp account. If they just create a Yelp account to leave a review, it will never be published because Yelp is very careful about fake reviews. That is great, but how many people do you know that have a Yelp account that they regularly use? Probably none, so none of your patients or clients will be able to leave a review that sticks. To leave a Google review, all you need is a Gmail account that you have been using for a while. Now how many people do you know that have a Gmail account? Probably lots.

There is no easy way to get your clients and patients to leave a review, but here is what has worked for us.

  1. Ask your customer to leave a Google review right after the job is done and you sense that they are happy. The last thing you want is for them to go and leave you a bad review. Just tell them to Google your business name and there should be a spot on the right hand side of the page where it says “leave a review” or “Be the first to review” and ask them for 5 stars
  2. Email them about a week later and ask them again to leave a review
  3. Ask friends or family that have used your services or products to leave a review. This one should be easy because you can be a lot more aggressive when you ask because they should want to help you, right? You can keep reminding them until they do it.

Just make sure that they use their own computers in their own homes to leave the reviews. Google can tell if two reviews are from the same computer or location and they will not publish them.

Is Your Local Business Website Mobile Friendly?

I am sure you are aware that almost everyone has an Iphone or some type of smartphone these days. In fact, it is not just the young people that seem to have their faces glued to their phones. Many older people have also taken up this habit and not just to check their Email. Many people use their phones to keep in touch through Facebook and Twitter, and of course through texting as well. However, more and more people are now using their phone to access the internet.

Mobile optimized website
Mobile friendly website

In fact more people now use a mobile device such as an Iphone or tablet to access the internet than the amount of people that use a desktop or laptop computer. We crossed that threshold back in 2014 when people were using their mobile devices an average of 2.6 hours per day and that has only accelerated with 2.8 hours of use in 2015

Of course these facts did not get by the very smart people at Google, so last April they made a public announcement that all websites on the internet should be mobile friendly. What does mobile friendly mean? Basically it just means that a user can easily read the text on your website pages without having to use their fingers to squeeze and zoom in and out to read your information when they are using a smartphone. Click here to see a comparison of what a non mobile website and a mobile optimized website look like on an Iphone.  Google even made a mobile friendly test website for the purpose of testing your website to see if it qualifies as mobile friendly.

Why should you care if Google doesn’t like your website?  Because your website may not rank as well as it should for people searching on a mobile device. To put it another way, Google may be penalizing your website because it is not mobile friendly. It is important to note that whether or not your website is mobile friendly should not have any effect on the ranking of your website for people searching on a desktop or laptop computer.

We did some informal testing on several local business websites to see how they rank on a smartphone. Some of the sites were mobile friendly and some were not. We found that it was still possible to rank your website on page 1 of Google with a site that is not mobile friendly, but that may be because all their competitors were not mobile friendly as well. Regardless, you should immediately make sure that your website passes the Google test, so that your website does not suffer any penalties on mobile devices.

If your website is built on WordPress, you are in luck. There are several plugins that covert your website so that it passes the Google test. However, the plugins will only make your website look good enough to pass the test, but it still won’t look great on a phone. The best solution is to move your website to a “responsive” theme or platform. A “responsive” website can sense the size of the screen on the user’s device and resize itself to look good on that screen. This way the site looks good on all devices. There are many responsive WordPress themes that are available for free.

 

 

How to Post to Your Small Business Social Media Accounts

If you are a small business owner, you probably get overwhelmed when you hear that you should be posting regularly on Facebook and Twitter. Then you hear you should also be on Pinterest and Instagram, Google plus and LinkedIn. On top of that, you read somewhere that you should be blogging on a regular basis.

Who the heck has time for all that? You probably work more as a business owner than you ever did when you were collecting a paycheck as an employee, so you probably think you don’t have the time to do all that online marketing as well. Social media doesn’t have to take too much time if you do it right. You just need to schedule a little bit of time once a week or so to share some good content that is relevant to your business. You do not have to create the content for your social media accounts. It is perfectly fine to find an article that you think would be beneficial to your customers and followers, and repost it on all your social media pages. It can be as simple as finding a newspaper story that is related to your business and sharing or tweeting a link to the article on the newspaper website. You can link your Twitter account to your Facebook business page so that when you post something on Facebook, it also goes out on twitter. You just need to go to https://www.facebook.com/twitter when you are logged into both Twitter and Facebook and you can link the accounts there.

There are other websites that allow to you to take the automation of your social media posts a few steps further. Hootsuite is probably the best known site, but there are several others. If you go the automation route, you can spend an hour or two every month to find all the content that you want to share with your followers and schedule it. Once that is done, you just have to monitor your social media accounts to see if anyone asks you a question or comments on what you have shared. It is good to be interactive, since that is the whole point of social media.

It is very important from an SEO (search engine optimization) perspective to at least have a presence on the major social media platforms. Another very important aspect of SEO is adding content to your website on a regular basis. You can do this by blogging which just means that you are adding a useful article to your website once in a while. Google loves websites that get updated often. If your website has not had any new content for a year or so, Google may think that your business is closed. It is the same thing as a physical bricks and mortar storefront where the front display that is visable on the sidewalk has not changed for a year. A person walking by the store on a regular basis might think that the store is either closed, or is not very successful if nothing ever changes with the display in the front window.

Stay tuned for an article on how to add content on your website by using other people’s content. Warning- you can not just copy someone else’s written content and put it on your website. If you do that, you can get into trouble.

Do You Have SEO Friendly URLs?

I am still amazed at how many websites still don’t have SEO Friendly URLs that have some keywords in them. For example a website might have a very useful article on how to train a bird to talk. Their URL should look something like this www.birdwebsite.ca/how-to-train-a-bird-to-talk  but many times it will look like this www.birdwebsite.ca/%667664.html  As you can see the first example has the main keyword that the article is about and that makes it much easier for Google and the person searching for the information to tell what the page is about.SEO friendly URLs

Some of the very simple do it yourself website platforms like Wix do not allow the SEO friendly URLs, so even though it is easy to make a nice looking website, you sometimes have trouble ranking your interior pages. WordPress, which this website is build on, makes it easy to add your keywords into the URL.  All you need to do is go to “settings” then choose “permalink” and select “postname” and WordPress will automatically create a URL that is the title of your post or page. You can also edit the url and make it whatever you want it to be.

When it comes to onpage SEO, your title tags and your URLs are very important.

Here is a great article that explains all this in more detail https://yoast.com/seo-friendly-urls/

 

My WordPress Website got Hacked

It seems like there are a lot of WordPress websites getting hacked lately. WordPress is vulnerable for a couple of reasons, with the first being the fact that something like 25% of all the websites on the internet are built on WordPress, so they are a tempting target. The second, is that all the plugins and themes, as well as WordPress itself have to be updated all the time to fix any vulnerabilities. If you don’t update your site, you make yourself an easy target for hackers.

Here is what I do when one of my sites gets hacked and some idiot takes over the homepage and posts something like “you have been hacked”

1) Delete all files from public_html

2)Delete database, and username from cpanel Mysql

3) copy all folders and files from the site backup on your computer  to public_html through FTP

4) Create new database, User, and password in cpanel

5) import database from the backup sql file on your computer  in phpmyadmin to the new database you just created.

6)Change database, user, and password in WPconfig.php file and ftp to public_html

The site should now be working

7) change password for website

8)change password for cpanel and FTP (probably the same)

9) Install “wordfence” plugin

How to transfer a wordpress site to a new domain on a new host

1)Do a file and database backup ( just to preserve the old site in case something goes wrong)

2) use filezilla to copy all WP folders and files from the old site to a folder on your computer ( call it old site) again just for safety I think

3) Go to dashboard on the old site > settings > general and change urls to new domain (this will kill the site)

4)Go back to filezilla and copy all WP folders and files from the old site to a folder on your computer (call it new site)

5) Login to your C-panel of your old site and old hosting and go to phpMyAdmin. Click on the database that belongs to your old site and click on “Export” at the top. Save the database somewhere on your computer.

6) Open the WP-config.php file on your computer in the new site folder with notepad and print it out so you can see what the database name, username, and password is.

7)Go to your C-panel on your new hosting company and create a database using “MySQL Databases” then create a “user” and add that user to the database you just made. Check the “all priviledges” box. If you can use the same names as on the sheet for the WP-config.php file you printed out, that would be great, but you probably can’t. So just name the database and username as close as you can to the original and go back and edit the WP-config.php file to match your new database name, and username. The password should stay the same so leave what is already in the WP-config.php.

8) FTP all the folders and files for “new site“from your computer to the new hosting company in /pubic_html

9) In C-panel on your new hosting company go to phpMyAdmin and you should be able to see the database you just created. Click on the database to highlight it and click on “import“. You will then be able to browse on your computer and find the database you saved from the old site on the old hosting company. Click “Go” to load it . Basically you have filled the empty database you created with the contents of the old database from the old site.

*Note the following may not be necessary and may have been done when you change the Urls on the old site under > settings > General . If you click on the database name on the left hand side you should see wp_options. Click on that and edit “siteurl” to change the domain from the old one to the new one, then on the second page edit “home” to change the domain from the old one to the new one. However do this for the old site on the old hosting to restore the old site if you want it up and running for some reason.

10) Now if you try to navigate to the new url on the new site you should get the site to load at least partially.

11) There may be many instances in the database where the old domain and urls are still referenced so some of the pages may not load or may load from the old site if it is still live. To fix this you need to install a file called “searchreplacedb2.php” that you can download from http://interconnectit.com/products/search-and-replace-for-wordpress-databases/

12) Copy the file over to your root directory using filezilla.

13) Go to yourdomain.com/searchreplacedb2.php and it will open a window where you can specify your old domain and your new domain. The tool will scour the database and replace all of the references to the old domain with the new one.

Should work and the site should be good.

*Note you may not have to do some of this stuff, but if you do it all, it should work. This is what I did when I transferred a site on hostgator to a new domain on crocweb hosting

Nov 2013

Keeping up with social media

We have all heard that local businesses need to be using social media to keep in touch with their customers and  prospective clients, but that takes a lot of time. Who can keep up with Facebook, Twitter, Google plus and now Pinterest? First you have to think of something to say, which could take a lot of time, then you have to actually find the time to post your information on each of these social networks while getting the appropriate links back to your website.

Well with coming up with something to say, you can just link to a blog post you recently did on your website. Another thing to do is to link to a news story that is related to your business. You could post some kind of feel good picture that has a famous quote from Einstein or someone like that. To try and get your post to go viral and get lots of shares from your fans, you could post a meme, which is a funny caption on a picture – usually a cat or some other animal. There are meme generators that you can use for free on the internet.

Finding the time to post these updates is the easy part. You could just schedule a slot in your daytimer , or you can use a service like Hootsuite which will allow you to schedule your posts as much as a month in advance. If you don’t want to go that far, you can link your Facebook account to your Twitter account so that whenever you post on Facebook, it will go out on Twitter as well.

It can seem like a pain, but you do need to be active on these social networks, especially in the future. Google is using social signals as a ranking factor, so although it is not absolutely necessary for local businesses to do this now, it will be in the near future. So, you might as well get used to it and jump in now.